The next YMAA Shaolin test in MA will be held at YMAA Boston on Sunday, February 17
Register (here) before February 4th for a discount

Tests. Some students avoid it because they’re simply not interested. Everyone has different reasons for training and it doesn’t make you any less of a student as long as you strive to improve. Rock on. Others are too nervous to perform in front of an audience or a panel of judges. The easiest way to adapt is to perform in front of your classmates as often as possible. You’ll mess up. A lot. You get used to it and it stops bothering you eventually. Being critiqued in front of an audience is another story. It takes courage, confidence, humility, and a lot of other things. The higher up you go, the more you’ll be ripped apart, but by then, you should have less self pride. You expect to be ripped apart and become concerned if you aren’t (at least I am).

I left my notebook out and returned to find these words of encouragement 

I’m my harshest critic. I haven’t felt good about a test since testing self chosen Qin Na for 3rd stripe, and by “good” I mean “not awful.” Now I tend to think, “That was ugly. It won’t pass, but it’s okay because it will be better next time…Wait, are you sure you want to pass me?” If I mess up in the middle, sometimes I consider sabotaging the rest so I will purposely fail and try again next time with a clean slate. The lowest passing score is 7.0 and I’d rather redo it than be mercy passed. I mostly score mid to low 7’s for the time being. One of my goals is to score an 8.0.

What does passing mean? All it means is that you have permission to practice. You’re far from done and you don’t stop practicing once you’ve passed a requirement. Also, the score isn’t important in the big picture. A student who passes with a 7.0 could perform at a 8.0 level if they keep practicing.

Recently, my attitude towards testing has changed. I was previously unable to watch anyone performing before me because I was afraid I would focus on their strengths and weaknesses and I didn’t need those thoughts running through my head. Now I can watch and flush those thoughts out of my mind.

I used to get very anxious and dreaded failing or getting a low score. Now I’m a paradox. I still hope to do my best and I hope my best is “good.” But I’m more nonchalant. I feel pretty much the same whether I pass or fail because either way, it means more practice. I can’t seem to bring out the best in me when it’s game time and I’ve gotten used to it. I have less self pride in that I don’t mind failing. I also have more pride in that if it’s really ugly, I sometimes want to ask the panel if I can do it over again after they’ve passed me. (I have never actually done so, and I’d recommend against it. Respect the judges.)

As a teacher, I want my young students to care about testing. Tests and rank aren’t accurate indicators of skill, but they do help to mark progress and improvements.

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